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Hand Loom Industry in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan history has many stories to tell us about the hand loom industry which has been done even during the time in which Prince Vijaya stepped into the island. Our ancestors have been used to weave clothes from threads a long time back and still in some areas the hand loom industry blossoms. Classic literary works carry proof about the hand loom industry; such as the Atuwa Books, Poojavaliya and Mahavamsa. There is no doubt that we as Sri Lankans possess creative hands in the textile industry.
Madampalla is an area where the hand loom industry still carries a victorious tone. The rhythms of the hand looms still resonate in this area along with the sounds of threads being weaved using large wheel-like wooden structures. The patterns on the clothes are fixed on them using wooden machines which work only with the efforts of the strong hands and feet of the weavers. They work with such enthusiasm and the way they are engrossed in weaving tells you that they are actually doing this out of admiration and through the love of their hearts to be with these machines.

The weavers say that this task of using the hand looms to make clothes have been in their families for centuries. For them it has always been in their vicinity and the love they have for these hand looms is in their bloods. They have learnt to use the equipment from the elders in their families and with no usage of electricity or any other form of power generation they carry on their work.

According to some of the weavers they said that the income generation from the industry has been very low and that they have not received much attention throughout all these years. Their idea is that the boosting of textile industry in relation with garment factories in Colombo and other trade zones has made a large impact on them. People tend to buy what is made from those factories and other imported materials rather than the home made garments of these weavers. Industrialization has not brought them any positive impact whereas it has only thrown them only into the hands of helplessness. The weavers said that for one sari weaved by them they received only Rs.100 but now the price has risen up to Rs.1200 which is highly concessionary according to them. The “Liya Abiman” program conducted nationwide has given them the opportunity to access the necessary information in order to flourish their own industry. They say that the three moth training program gave them enough information to continue their occupation as weavers. They have also received necessary equipment including new machinery and threads.

Hand loom sareesThe materials woven by them carry a wide variety like sari, shirts, shawls and bed sheets. Some weavers believe that the younger generation will not like to stick with this industry as they are often caught with the race to follow industrialization and the conveniences it has brought them. They believe that the necessary information should be given to them also to uplift this industry in future times.

Related articles : Hand-Woven Saree Gaining Popularity 

Some weavers word from eight in the morning till late at night. They say that working doesn’t make them feel tired or that the same old monotonous noise of the hand loom is boring; instead they say that the love for their work keeps them tied up to the hand loom.

After the 1970’s Sri Lanka started to import cotton wool from countries like India and with the Open Economy Policy people got used to buy clothes imported from abroad neglecting the traditional weaved clothes. Owing to these people who still stick to the hand looms our country still possesses the hand loom industry. When you look at the way these people are engaged in their work you will witness how they master this art of weaving with such creativity. It is indeed an artistic talent rather than doing a job.

The weavers in Madampalla are engaged in weaving these days in support of the CHOGM which is to take place in the country in this month. The official costume ( the sari ) for the employees of the Lanka Tourist Board are to be woven by them which shows the glory of the Sri Lankan textile industry to the whole world.

Ruvindra Sathsarani

Young Ruwindra joined Lanka Help Magazine as a writer in October 2013. She has a great desire to become a journalist. Her articles have been published in many national papers.

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